Iranian state broadcaster IRNA reported on 26 May 2011:
The Church of Scotland has called for the labelling of illegal Israeli settlement goods after being intimidated to withdraw a resolution calling for a boycott following threats of reprisals against its staff and assets in the occupied territories.
IRNA carried a quote from the Reverend Paraic Reamonn, a Church of Scotland minister:
Speaking during the debate Rev Paraic Reamonn said Christians had for far too long been complicit in the Israeli state’s oppression of Palestinians and condemned Israeli threats.
‘Israel is holding the work of this Church hostage,’ Reamonn said. It constituted an apartheid state which ‘privileges Jewish ethnicity in the way that Afrikaaners used to privilege white people in South Africa,’ he said.
‘This situation of institutional injustice, and all that flows from it, damages the soul and security of Jewish people as well as destroys the lives of Palestinians,’ he said.
I strongly disagree with calling Israel an apartheid state, and with the imagery Reamonn uses.
Yet, the same words appeared in a far more extreme form, on the website of liberal Christian think-tank Ekklesia. Ekklesia is directed by the journalist Simon Barrow, who occasionally writes for Guardian CIF Belief, and for Liberal Conspiracy.
The following day, Ekklesia published Reamonn’s comments in full, under the headline Israel is holding the Kirk’s work hostage.
It first includes this comment, which we don’t read in the IRNA version:
We European Christians are doubly complicit in what Israel is and does. First, in that centuries of utterly deplorable Christian anti-Judaism prepared a seedbed for modern European anti-Semitism and ultimately for the Holocaust. Second, in that Holocaust guilt and belated repentance of anti-Judaism prompt too many of us to keep silent while Israel persists in a strategy of dispossessing the indigenous population of Palestine that began in 1948 and continues to this day – grabbing their land, demolishing their houses, stealing their water, uprooting their olives trees, and killing them.
It seems to me that Reamonn is saying, “Holocaust guilt” has led us to try and hide Israeli crimes. This is really bad. We should be feeling guilty – about how our original guilt has made Israel do bad things in the first place! Guilt guilt guilt. Guilt led us to support the wrong kind of politics, but guilt can get us back on track too.
Note also, he can’t separate “what Israel is” and “what Israel does”.
And by imagining Israel as a nation of foreigners dispossessing “indigenous” Middle Easterns, Reamonn overlooks the fact that Jews themselves are indigenous to the Middle East and to Palestine. If Reamonn is uncomfortable with historical arguments about Jews living in Israel until their forced exile, he only has to look back to 1948, and the expulsion of the region’s Jews from the Middle East and North Africa.
But here’s the kicker.
What follows, is a quote from Reamonn from the Ekklesia article.
To awaken the consciousness and prick the conscience of a world that for too long has given Israel a free pass. And to hold Israel accountable, to call it to repent. Perhaps our greatest need is to challenge ordinary, decent Jews in Israel who, like ordinary, decent Afrikaners in South Africa of old, are blind – utterly blind – to the reality of what is done in their name and its human consequences.
What it would be unwise and imprudent for the assembly to do, we as individuals certainly can and should do. When we return to our homes – homes to which we happily are free to return – we should urge our communities and congregations to join the BDS campaign. And we should do this for the sake of the Palestinian Arabs, who are the chief victims of this long sorry history, but also for the sake of the Jews of Israel, who in destroying the lives of their Palestinian neighbours are destroying their own souls.
Compare Reamonn’s quote here, with the original IRNA quote.
I’m not sure which is worse.
For the IRNA to moderate and somewhat tidy up these nasty comments, and present them as a fair criticism of Israel?
Or for Ekklesia to publish these comments in their raw form, and present them as a fair criticism of Israel?